Rig Veda & Chandi: Ratrisukta (Hymn to the Night)

The Ratrisukta is a beautiful poem in praise of the Vedic Goddess Ratri, the Goddess of the Night.  The hymn itself is indicative of the culture of the Vedic people, reflecting some of the dangerous realities of village and agrarian life. It is a request for protection and peace, a very practical sort of prayer. In later philosophical development, Ratri is Maya, the power that creates the world and also plunges it into spiritual darkness.  Ratri is also the symbol of our embodied human state. She may also be seen as an early whisper of the imagery of Kali, with her luminous darkness and protective ferocity.

This poem is also part of a collection of poems traditionally chanted with the Chandi Path, or Devi Mahatmyam, without which the chanting is not considered complete. By offering praise to Ratri after the chanting of the Chandi, we recognize that we must go through darkness to reach the light of self-realization. Beyond ignorance and knowledge is the illumination of DEVI – who is pure reality and pure being (sat), pure consciousness (cit or chit), and bliss (ananda). This leads to the highest state of being – satchidananda, or being-consciousness-bliss – pure divinity.

We must go through darkness to reach the light of self-realization.

OM! The goddess Ratri (Night), approaching, illumines every direction with her eyes. She has put on all her glories.

The immortal Goddess has filled the world’s breadth, heights, and depths with her light. She drives away the darkness.

The approaching goddess follows upon her sister, Usha (Dawn), at whose coming the darkness likewise departs.

Now she is upon us: at her coming we go to rest as birds to their nest in a tree.

The villagers have gone to rest, and so, too, all the creatures that walk or fly, even the ravenous hawks.

Ward off the she-wolf and the wolf, ward off the thief, O wave of darkness, and be easy for us to pass through.

For now, the palpable blackness crushes down upon me, O Dawn, collect it dutifully.

As you would accept a precious herd of cattle, O daughter of heaven, O Night, accept this hymn, offered as if to a conqueror.

— Rig Veda 10.127, trans. Devadatta Kali, In Praise of the Goddess (2003)